On 11 November, the Council held its 2014 annual public lecture at the Barbican Centre in London. Over 130 people attended the event, which saw four speakers present their take on future challenges in and for bioethics. The event was hosted by Chair of Council Professor Jonathan Montgomery, and followed by a Q&A with the audience.
Deborah Bowman, Professor of Bioethics, Clinical Ethics and Medical Law at St. George’s University of London, began the evening by suggesting changes are needed in bioethics as a field of enquiry for it to be able to meet future challenges in society. She stressed the need to make discussions about bioethical issues more open and inclusive, listening to voices that are not currently heard and broadening the spaces in which discussions are taking place.
The second speaker was Sarah Chan, Research Fellow in Bioethics and Law and Deputy Director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester. Sarah reflected on the role of bioethicists in setting out how we hope future challenges will be met, from issues at the individual level, such as around reproduction rights, to the global level and questions about access to technologies and participation in research.
Molly Crockett, Associate Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, spoke about research identifying processes in the brain that influence our moral behaviour and decision-making, and the potential to manipulate these processes. She considered whether we will ever be able to develop a ‘morality pill’ and what scientific and ethical challenges this might involve.
Finally, Gill Haddow, Senior Research Fellow in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh, looked towards a future where people’s bodies will need more replacement parts as a result of us living longer. Drawing on interviews with people who currently have technological implants to support their heart function, she explored questions around how people feel about living with implanted material in their bodies, and the implications for what it might mean to be human in the future.